Top 10 Films Of Stanley Kubrick

It’s a filmography filled with masterpieces – A Clockwork Orange, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove – as Neal Damiano takes a look at the top 10 Stanley Kubrick films…

10. Spartacus

spartacus_kirk-douglas_stanley-kubrick_top10films, top 10 films, stanley kubrickKirk Douglas stars as a heroic slave who fights to lead his people to freedom from the Roman Rule. Lots of blood and fighting in this epic picture but perhaps the most noted and memorable moment is the bathing scene between the Roman General played by Laurence Olivier and the angst ridden poetic slave played by Tony Curtis. The scene sparked a lot of controversy and was considered very taboo for its time.

9. Barry Lyndon

barry-lyndon_stanley-kubrick_top10films, top 10 films, stanley kubrickStanley Kubrick’s eccentric drama centers around the rise and fall of Barry Lyndon, an Irishman with delusions of grandeur and dreams of glory. Ryan O’Neal’s performance is superb. Not known generally for playing quirky characters, O’Neal channels an eccentricity that just radiates on film. The movie has exceptional costume design and period music.

8. Dr Strangelove: Or How I Stopped Worrying And Love The Bomb

dr-strangelove-phone_kubrick, top 10 films, stanley kubrickI would say this is Kubrick’s quirkiest film in his brilliant library, simply because of the characters and it’s his only comedy (of sorts). The absurd characters in this doomsday dark comedy are nonstop. What is also quite amazing about this film: Peter Sellers plays three different roles throughout the entire movie. Sterling Hayden plays a paranoid, commie-hating General who launches an air attack on the Soviet Union. The interesting aspect that I love about Dr. Strangelove is that it centers on a threat that was very real at the time and manages to poke fun at it in a tasteful, unique way.

7. The Killing

the-killing_stanley-kubrick_top10films, top 10 films, stanley kubrickStanley Kubrick’s third feature film considered to be one of the most influential and entertaining crime heist films ever made. Sterling Hayden stars as a criminal released from prison who can’t shake the urge to pull off one more heist before marrying his long time girlfriend. He hooks up with two ex-professional wrestlers to do the job. A very influential film to many directors – Quentin Tarantino admits the influence Kubrick’s film had on the filming of Reservoir Dogs. A very visually stunning film made on a very small budget.

6. 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick, top 10 films, stanley kubrick2001 is one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made in my opinion, because of the mysterious way it was captured on film. Kubrick was the master of directing cinematography and it really shows in this epic adventure of exploring space and unknown territory. A true masterpiece about man vs machine and quite ahead of its time. The movie really gave us a glimpse of the future and the battle in human condition as technology advanced everyday. The most memorable quote “Open the door Hal, open the door.”

5. Lolita

lolita_stanley-kubrick_top10films, top 10 films, stanley kubrickPeter Sellers plays Humbert, a college professor. While waiting for a teaching position, he rents a room from a lonely woman played by Shelly Winters. She has a beautiful 15-year-old daughter that Sellers becomes quite inappropriately fond of. She finds a diary filled with lustful writings on what Humbert would like to do with her daughter, so distraught she runs into the street and gets killed by a car. Humbert basically kidnaps the daughter on a cross country road trip. Lolita was quite taboo in nature and daring in its time. The film got mixed reviews and is known for its drawn out length. I feel it told a risky story and Kubrick made it very funny at times. It does tend to drag a bit in the second half but a very well made character-centered story.

4. Eyes Wide Shut

eyeswideshut_stanley-kubrick_top10films, top 10 films, stanley kubrickThe final film from the master of cinema. Surprisingly it got trashed by the critics because of its shallow content, but I saw the film a different way. I thought it was an eerily dark story about temptation, desire and curiosity of the unknown. Tom Cruise stars as a pompous doctor who battles with sex addiction and infidelity. When he gets introduced to the sordid underworld of sex parties among the elite rich, he finds out more than he ever wanted to imagine. I read a quote about this film when it first got released, that really stuck with me – it read: “A doctor that thought he knew everything……but realized his eyes were wide shut” and I feel that nails what the movie is about.

3. The Shining

TheShining, top 10 films, stanley kubrickWriter Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick join forces to make one of the most frightening films in history. The Shining scared the life out of me as a kid. I remember the scenes so vividly and Jack Nicholson’s portrayal as the caretaker of The Overlook Hotel, who gets possessed by the previous caretaker, mixed with a little cabin fever is so over the top and crazy I had nightmares. His son acquires the “shining” which enables him to foresee things before they happen. Some truly freaky and disturbing scenes throughout and filled with quotable lines including one of the most famous lines in cinema history – “Here’s Johnny”

2. Full Metal Jacket

Gomer Pyle, Film, Full Metal Jacket, Stanley Kubrick, top 10 filmsFull Metal Jacket is one of the greatest portrayals of the Vietnam War. The viewer gets a glimpse of boot camp hell to being on the front line in battle. Mathew Modine plays Joker, a cocky and witty recruit who quickly learns the horrors of war. What makes Full Metal Jacket so compelling is the vivid realism in the way it was filmed. The cinematography is amazing and the film features superb acting by the entire cast. The film really brings the viewer on a journey through the entire process of being a recruit to a full on soldier. Lee Ermey plays a sadistic DI to near perfection and has many very funny quotable lines!

1. A Clockwork Orange

clockwork-orange_stanley-kubrick_top10films, top 10 films, stanley kubrickThis film is what introduced me to Kubrick’s amazing line of work. An ironic tale of an ultra violent future filled with gangs, run down cities, and strange technology. Malcolm McDowell stars as Alex the leader of a vicious gang that is obsessed with violence, sex, and Beethoven. The Singing in the Rain scene is iconic in cinema and the perverse violence in the movie is frightening to watch but like a car accident it is hard to turn your head away. The brilliance of A Clockwork Orange is how ahead of its time the film was. Kubrick knew something we didn’t, violence and sex sells more than anything else in society. The idea of someone apathetic to the order of society and does whatever they feel is interesting to human beings. Then to see them fall and get reformed is even more fascinating. This is a common theme in a lot of Stanley Kubrick films, he warned us. The man was a brilliant storyteller and director.

Discover More: Kubrick at his best in A Clockwork Orange | Top 10 Films to have Driven People to Murder | Top 10 Films which should have Helped Rescue Malcolm McDowell’s Career

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.

Top 10 Films asks: what are your fave Stanley Kubrick movies?

About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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  1. Avatar
    Roxx Krakowiak Reply

    Eyes Wide Shut is a masterpiece

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      Dan Reply

      Totally agree! Underrated on its initial release, I think more and more people are seeing the genius of it now.

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    Rob Daniel Reply

    A Clockwork Orange will always be my fave. Another question – what Kubrick film you like least? I always found Lolita dull.

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      Dan Reply

      Hmm…good question. Will have to have a think. There isn’t one I don’t like but I’ve always found Full Metal Jacket to be better in its first half than its second. However, perhaps I’d lean towards Lolita like you…

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    Ted Saydalavong Reply

    2001, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Landon, The Shining… I don’t think there’s a film of his I didn’t like but those are my faves.

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    Avigail Reply

    Clockwork orange – favourite. Eyes wide shut and lolita on par but behind. Lolita impossible to measure up to the book.

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    ruth Reply

    Dr Strangelove is such a hoot but I must say I’m not fond of Spartacus at all. I do love Ben-Hur though, but I just didn’t like Douglas at all in the title role.

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    Mark Reply

    Great list, albeit a little polemical IMO.

    I would have had Paths of Glory in there well before Spartacus and Eyes Wide Shut. Indeed, I wouldn’t have put EWS in there at all, despite the facts: (1) I first saw it in the cinema when it came out; (2) I’ve sat through it a few times since, and; (3) I’ve read well argued positive articles/essays about it written by folk who are way smarter and erudite than me.

    I agree with Dan that Full Metal Jacket has a better first half than second. Furthermore, I believe this difference is kinda profound.

    In terms of The Shining, I still believe it is a black comedy given its deviation from the King book. Plus, I must admit, it took me a few viewings to really appreciate it (where was Nicholson’s Oscar nomination for this?).

    As for Lolita, I believe the Lynne remake is superior, although Sellers’ opening salvo in the original is an absolute hoot.

    Interestingly, back in mid 1992, I was watching TV in Old Blighty one Sunday night when Alex Cox introduced a couple of Stanley’s films and, during his blather, accused his work of being somewhat below par and overrated. I agreed with him to a point, but over the years I’ve swayed back to the pro-Kubrick camp – and this list highlights some of the reasons why.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth, my top 10 would be:

    1. Dr Strangelove
    2. A Clockwork Orange
    3. Paths of Glory
    4. Barry Lyndon
    5. The Shining
    6. Full Metal Jacket
    7. The Killing
    8. 2001
    9. Lolita
    10. Spartacus

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      Castor Hoyle Reply

      I like your list Mark. VERY much.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Dan, I disagree I thought Full Metal Jacket was engaging the whole way through. Just an amazing film I can watch over and over again. Mathew Modine and Adam Baldwin were so good in it! Lolita does drag but there was something so taboo and fascinating about it. It’s hard to find a Kubrick film that’s dull, absolutely.

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    Neal Damiano Reply

    Mark, watch Eyes Wide Shut again it took me a twice viewing to appreciate it and I’m not a huge Tom Cruise fan but the film is insightful on human nature and the way it was shot – signature Kubrick. FMJ I stand by the chemistry chaos between Modine and Baldwin!

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      Dan Reply

      For me, Eyes Wide Shut has got better with every viewing. I think it works better when you have an expectation of what takes place… Not sure exactly why but the fact it is a strange, maddeningly ambiguous film on a par with the David Lynch school of filmmaking might be part of the answer.

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    Hamann Reply

    Love Kubrick’s work but there are a few real stand outs for me. A Clockwork Orange is my personal favourite followed by Dr. Strangelove and Paths of Glory. Great top 10!

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    Film Buff Baker Reply

    1. 2001
    2. The Shining
    3. Paths of Glory
    4. Eyes Wide Shut
    5. Dr Strangelove

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      I’ve found with much of Kubrick’s work that his films reveal themselves to the viewer more and more on each viewing. I’d say this is most evident in 2001 and one of the main reasons it is so well thought of.

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    Maynard M Reply

    1. Shining
    2. 2001
    3. Clockwork Orange
    4. Full Metal Jacket
    5. Eyes Wide Shut

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      Dan Reply

      Wow… No room for Dr. Strangelove! But then again that’s an indication of the strength of Kubrick’s work.

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    Screen 7 Reply

    1) The Shining
    2) Paths of Glory
    3) Eyes Wide Shut
    4) 2001
    5) Dr. Strangelove

    • Avatar
      Dan Reply

      The Shining is my favourite too but it’s great to see Paths of Glory feature so highly, a terrific anti-war film.

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    Creeper Reply

    Surprised Paths of Glory didn’t make your top 10. That would be top 3 for me with Full Metal Jacket moving down the list.

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      Dan Reply

      Tend to agree with you there… Full Metal Jacket is brilliant during its training section but I’ve always felt it loses something when the new soldiers get to Vietnam. That said, it remains one of the best anti-war movies about Vietnam and is another example of Kubrick’s ability to take his genius to whatever genre takes his fancy.

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    Norm Reply

    10. Full Metal Jacket
    9. Killer’s Kiss
    8. Paths of Glory
    7. Eyes Wide Shut
    5. The Killing
    4. Dr. Strangelove
    3. A Clockwork Orange
    2. The Shining
    1. 2001

  15. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    I know it seems like a filmography,………but Kubrick actually has 16 films under his belt!

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    Dan Reply

    Really great to see Eyes Wide Shut so high up. I seem to remember the critics didn’t like the film on its release but I’ve always felt it is an incredible piece of work and certainly one of his best. There’s a dreamlike quality to it that I love and the ambiguity of it all never fails to totally engross me.

    The Shining is my favourite of the lot with A Clockwork Orange in second place.

    • Avatar
      Neal Damiano Reply

      The Shining is such an amazing film with a lot of hidden symbolism. Kubrick purposely did this to play with the audience, another sign of his genuis. Dan, have you seen the documentary Room 237? If not I highly recommend!

      • Avatar
        Dan Reply

        I haven’t seen Room 237 but it sounds very interesting. I wonder if it’s available online.

  17. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    BTW, that documentary ” Room 237″ inspired me to write this list!

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    Evan Crean Reply

    I haven’t seen nearly as many Kubrick films as I should, but I’m proud to say I’ve at least seen your top 3. For me though I think The Shining would be #1, with Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket in the 2 and 3 spots. The Shining is extremely compelling and just a grand slam in my opinion, whereas there were areas in Orange and Jacket that didn’t quite work for me.

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    Richard Reply

    I was first introduced to Kubrick when I happened across a pirate VHS of the then banned A Clockwork Orange. I’ve been hooked ever since but Orange remains my favourite. Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, and Dr. Strangelove would be next with The Shining and 2001 following on from there. There’s a madness at work in Kubrick’s films that I can’t get enough of. Paths of Glory would also make my top 10 at the expense of Lolita.

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    SnapCrackleWatch Reply

    would have to be The Shining and Clockwork Orange

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      Dan Reply

      Yeah, two of my faves as well. The Shining is a great example of taking a novel and adapting it with a unique vision (not worrying about being “faithful” to the source or the novelist). Stephen King hates Kubrick’s film because he feels it is not a fair representation of the story he wrote. But as the poor King-sanctioned miniseries attests, Kubrick was right to interpret the novel his own way.

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    James Brogan Reply

    2001, Dr Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket.

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    Adam Lumb Reply

    So many great films from Kubrick, I’d be hard pushed to order them. Plaudits for trying! I’d personally ditch Spartacus and Lolita and include Paths of Glory and Killer’s Kiss.

    As for my personal favourite… Hmm… A different day would probably reveal and different answer but The Shining, Dr. Strangelove, 2001 and A Clockwork Orange would all be vying for number one!

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    Rory Fish Reply

    Great read Neal. You’re a braver man than me trying to order Kubrick’s great body of work. The Shining is tops for me but I’d have to throw 2001 and A Clockwork Orange into a hat and randomly pick them out for places 2 and 3. Like you my number one is the film that introduced me to Kubrick. I didn’t catch up with A Clockwork Orange until many years later. Loved Eyes Wide Shut too! And, of course, Dr. Strangelove and Full Metal Jacket are must sees for anyone introducing themselves to Kubrick.

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    DerekB Reply

    …I’ll be the first, along with Neal, to sing the praises of Spartacus then shall I! 🙂

  25. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    Thank you all for the comments and positive feedback. He is one of my favorite directors that deserves praise…… I had to create a list!!

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    Greg Reply

    A Clockwork Orange is my favourite Kubrick too – stunning film that has lost none of its power. In fact, you can say that about almost every Kubrick film – Paths of Glory, for instance, still feels so relevant and does 2001, with its late-1960s special-effects, look aged next to today’s CGI…not really.

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    Al Robinson Reply

    My favorite is The Shining.

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    Castor Hoyle Reply

    A top 10 list for a director who only made 13 full-length movies? That’s a bit absurd, isn’t it?

    And this list reads not like someone who fully understands the mechanics of what makes a well-rounded film, but by a young testosterone-driven nerd who critiques movies by how much excitement, big guns and whacky scary stuff they contain.

    You have nothing positive to say about “Lolita” and even agree it’s “drawn-out”–and even pad your review by spending three-quarters of it with its synopsis–but then you list it as Kubrick’s 4th greatest movie–over “2001” and “Strangelove”?? I would personally like to bean you over your thick skull with a copy of Leonard Maltin’s “100 Greatest Films of All Time” paperback for that one.

    And stop with all the “…one of the most influential in film history…”, “,,,one of the greatest lines in cinema….”, “….probably the most entertaining scene in the history of the world…” bullshit. Tell us WHY these aspects of the film are good. Don’t waste your time convincing us how brilliant Kubrick is. Although I have to agree most of today’s moviegoers ARE idiots that have no idea what existed on the silver screen BSW (before Star Wars).

    Your core readers appear to be a bunch of 20-something gameboys that play “The Shining” and “Full Metal Jacket” over and over again waiting to recite all the cool things the cartoony-crazy characters say, so I have to at least give you props for trying to hip these doofuses about Kubrick’s work outside of “Here’s Johnny” and “Full Metal Jacket”.

    Neal, your homework for the rest of your life is this: watch every single movie made before 1975. That’s right–ALL of them. Since all of today’s great movies are directly inspired by movies made before you were born, ya might as well study the actual source. And don’t stop at 1969. Just keep going all the way back to the 30s…and 20s. Trust me when I tell you there were movies from that era that are just as moving as “The Hunger Games”. LOL! The fact that you can stomach a black & white Kubrick movie means you’re capable of absorbing the rest of the great stuff the world has committed to film over the last 100 years.

    Now go run and find your place in line for “Star Wars”. I’m assuming that’s all you’ve been thinking about today.

    • Avatar
      Rory Reply

      What a shame Castor fails to understand that people can enjoy movies in different ways to himself. It’s even more saddening to see a self-styled film buff damning the efforts of a fellow enthusiast because their appreciation of cinema – their love of cinema – is interpreted differently. Furthermore, I’m struggling to grasp how such an intelligent person forgets that a “top 10” is ordered in a chronological fashion based on personal appreciation – favouritism. The fact Kubrick’s body of work provides such a small sample size is wholly irrelevant.

      • Avatar
        Callum Reply

        And he manages to have a pop at the readership too. That’s sad.

      • Avatar
        Neal Damiano Reply

        Rory, this guy is pathetic and probably never wrote anything is his sad life.
        Wow, Mr Castor Hoyle you have read a lot of books on film. Very impressive (laughing)

  29. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    I just caught wind of this (laughing) ok, Mr Castor Hoyle I’m going to teach you a little something called class.
    Thank you for reading and your opinion. I wrote this for the enjoyment of the readers. I don’t subscribe to trying to be a film snob, which apparently you’re trying to be and you come off as an idiot of course in my opinion and apparently some of the readers of this sight agree with me. I’d like to see a top 10 list from you. As for film knowledge I really don’t need your advice it’s pretty common knowledge but thanks for flexing your wings it’s very comical. Again, thanks for reading my list.

  30. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    One last thing Castor, remember it’s much easier to criticize than create. That’s my advice to you. Usually it comes from a discontent of oneself.

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    Mark Fraser Reply

    “A top 10 list for a director who only made 13 full-length movies? That’s a bit absurd, isn’t it?”

    Not as absurd as laying awake at night trying to come with a top 10 list for Tarkovsky, Mr Hoyle.

    But seriously …. the other month I bought a double DVD pack of Eyes Wide Shut and some extras. I still haven’t watched the extras; I couldn’t after once again being floored by the stupidity of the main feature. Actually, stupidity may be the wrong word – pointlessness could be more appropriate. To tell you the truth, I don’t know anymore; all I know is that despite repeated viewings I still reach the same conclusion I did back in 1999 when I first saw this in the cinema (and predicted the final line before Ms Kidman uttered it). It’s an awful film – there’s no two ways about it. Goodness knows I’ve tried to like it, or at least put my prejudices aside enough to objectively appreciate it. But I can’t. I could for both The Shining and Full Metal Jacket, both of which I thought were reasonably flawed when I first saw them (as an aside, when I watched the latter in the theatre back in 1987, the film briefly seized up just as Mattie Modine was about to shoot the Vietnamese sniper – this didn’t help things).

    I would argue that Paths of Glory should have been on this list at the expense of Eyes Wide Shut. A Clockwork Orange is a good choice for number one; personally I would have chosen Dr Strangelove. It’s a moot point really – both are masterpieces.

  32. Avatar
    Neal Damiano Reply

    That’s great on both of you’re (Castor and Mark) opinions. And it’s fantastic to have opinions that’s what cinema is all about. But to bash someone’s art or creativity is just ignorant and makes one look really foolish, that’s all. It took me a long time to write this list and I’m quite proud of it!

  33. Avatar
    Mark Fraser Reply

    I agree it’s a well written list and a worthy narrative. I just have trouble with Eyes Wide Shut – more so than with any other Kubrick movie. This is totally my problem; and is possibly a reflection on my lack of comprehension and/or patience. (And while I might not be the biggest Cruise fan, I can still watch him, so Cruise discrimination isn’t a dominating factor in my thinking, although I admit it also doesn’t help it.)

    In no way should what I blather be construed as a slur on your good judgement (or your writing for that matter).

    As for the 10 out of 13 comment, Billy Friedkin only made about 15 films and there’s a definite top 10 in there, so I can’t see how Kubrick is any different.

    • Avatar
      Neal Damiano Reply

      My reply was more for Mr Hoyle, who apparently is trying to flex intellectual wings but ended up looking like an idiot.

      Mark I always appreciate your reading & input on my lists. Give Eyes Wide Shut another viewing what helped me to really appreciate the film is a quote I read in Film Comment it said ” A doctor that thought he knew everything……but realized his eyes were wide shut” and I feel that nails what the movie is about.

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